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Published: Wednesday 16 May 2018

Results of the international WAKE-UP trial suggest that thousands of people who wake up with a stroke each year in the UK could now benefit from life-changing thrombolysis treatment.

These results were presented today at the European Stroke Organisation Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Thrombolysis is the use of clot-busting drugs to help dissolve a blood clot in the brain which causes a stroke, and can significantly improve patients outcomes. However, the treatment must be given within the first 4.5 hours after stroke, meaning people who have woken up with their stroke, or who otherwise don't know when their stroke began, could not previously benefit.

Professor Götz Thomalla and Professor Christian Gerloff (co-ordinators on WAKE-UP) interviewed on trial results

Patients were selected for the WAKE-UP trial based on findings from two different types of routine brain scan taken after their stroke. Comparing the two types of brain scan allowed the researchers to determine whether the patient had likely had their stroke within the 4.5 hour window or not, and whether they could be eligible for thrombolysis.

Of 503 patients with wake-up stroke selected for the study, 254 were randomly assigned to receive thrombolysis, whilst the remaining 249 received a dummy (placebo) drug instead. Those patients who received thrombolysis made a significantly improved recovery at three months after stroke, compared to those patients who received the dummy drug.

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive at the Stroke Association, which is a consortium member on the trial, said:

"These findings could be a game-changer for the thousands of people every year in the UK who have a stroke in their sleep so can't receive thrombolysis.

“Stroke is an emergency and there is only a small window of opportunity to receive treatment that can reduce brain damage. The damage caused by a stroke can affect people's mobility, vision, memory and even their personality, robbing them of the life they had.

"Everyone who has had a stroke should be given the best chance of recovery. If the use of this new brain scan technique was rolled out across the UK, it has the potential to save thousands of stroke survivors from serious physical and mental disability.”

For more information, visit the University of Glasgow website.